How work related learning aids in professional socialisation

Published: 2021-06-16 04:30:04
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Work related learning is increasingly becoming a very important component in the learning system particularly for tertiary and higher education in Zimbabwe and abroad. It is now mandatory for al graduates to go for work related learning in their 3rd year for at least 10 months during their four year programme. As defined by DCSF (2009) work related learning is a planned activity that uses the context of work to develop knowledge, skills and understanding, useful in work, including learning through the experience of work, learning about work and working practices, and learning the skills for work. Work related learning can be termed, work place learning, work integrated learning or work focused learning.
According to Macintyre, Murray and Teel (2009) professional socialization is the process by which individuals acquire the specialized knowledge, skills attitudes, values, norms and interest needed to perform their professional roles acceptably. In a broader sense Weidman, Twale and Stein (2001) define professional socialization as the process by which persons acquire knowledge, skills and disposition that makes them more or less effective members of society. Work related learning programme contributes to professional socialization of the learner in that it helps develop learner employability skills, provide learners with the opportunity to‘ learn by doing’ and to learn from experts. Work related learning programme also motivates and boosts self-confidence of students, develop career awareness and improve learner understanding of the economy, enterprise, finance and the structure of business organizations and how they work. A detailed discussion of these contributions of work related learning to professional socialization of the learner is given below. Professional identity formation
Work related learning programme that has been adopted by tertiary institutions helps in professional identify formation. Collin (2009) defines professional identity as a sense of self that is connected to a particular vocation. Cohen (1981) also defines it as an aspect of personal and social identity that develops in professional personnel as a result of their wok activities. Trede (2012) added that professional identity can only develop in engaged students and this takes place through careful critique of current practices and values. Engaged students involve themselves in debates about practice decisions and about practice experiences because this will enable them to act consciously and actively form their professional identity. Professional identity also involves change of oneself individual concept to such an extent that an identity develops within and for the profession (DCSF,2009). Different professions have various identities and it is through work related learning when such identities are actively formed. For example workers in the Tourism and Hospitality industry are identified by being smart, flexible calm, friendly, sharp memory etc. The learners for this industry are therefore supposed to have these characteristics. When students are on work related learning these characteristics develop within them replacing the ones they already had hence being professional socialized. Provides students an opportunity to “learn by doing”
Work related learning program contributes to professional socialization of learners through enrichment the learner education. Institutions of higher learning are always seeking for ways to ensure that students apply their acquired knowledge to practice, this way they learn by doing (DSCF, 2009). Students in a range of fields including teachers, media professionals and social workers believe they learn more during their placement than from their classes.
They also find the experience rewarding because they address real problems and the work they produce is used by other people (Bates, 2005). For example Tourism and Hospitality students can learn much of theory at university but when they go for work related learning they will have an opportunity to put theory into practice. For example they might have theoretical knowledge on how to serve food in a hotel, when they go to the actual work places they will serve the guests hence learning by doing.
However, for learning by doing to be effective, supervisors must be able to assist students obtain professional knowledge by monitoring the difficulty of allocated tasks and helping the student anticipate their mistakes through discussion, modeling of appropriate behaviors and the provision of corrective feedback. The absence of proper supervisor might fail to make work related learning an effective tool for learning by doing. Professional values and ethics development
Work related learning assists students in the development of professional values and ethics. Literature keeps reminding us that tertiary education is expected to create work-ready graduates (DEST, 2007). Such work-readiness includes readiness to engage in workplace norms and ethical readiness to navigate around ethical issues in the workplace, and modify one’s own views whilst improving the ethical practice around them.
It is important to recognize that students on placement are still, despite holding personal values, in formative stages of developing their professional values and ethics, holding narrow conceptual understandings of professionalism (Grace and Trede, 2011). Students need to understand and navigate the increasingly important ethical aspects of being a professional. Work related learning aims to evolve within the student a sense of self and the development of an identity within their chosen profession (Campbell and Zegwaard, 2011). Given the rich learning environment that work-integrated learning affords, a valuable relationship between work related learning and professional ethics exists, and this allow students to be true professionals upon graduation. Development of employability skills of learners
The working environment has undergone a number a changes in the past two decades. These changes, including economic, technological and social, have altered the skills that employers require of graduates (Cullen, 2004). Educational institutions need to ensure that their graduates have the necessary skills to make them employable after graduation.
Higher education has a particularly important role to play in providing society with individuals trained in such a way that they can respond to the demands of knowledge-based occupations (CHE, 2001). This means that employers expect diplomat graduates to demonstrate management characteristics and skills that include being communicative, computer literate, innovative, initiators, strategic and lateral thinkers, competent, able to work with little orientation, responsible, assertive, decisive, and mult-skilled as well as be independent and critical thinkers (Maslen, 2000). Work-integrated learning programs help provides tertiary students with this experience hence professionally socializing the learners.
Provides insights into possible careers Professional socialization affects individuals interests in a profession hence helps in making informed choices about the learners career (Page, 2005). Students may also use the placement to assess decisions about their career and decide if they are more suitable for particular roles within the industry. Work related leaning provides opportunities for learners to develop knowledge and understanding of work and enterprise, to develop skills for enterprise and employability and to learn through direct experiences and work enterprise experiences.
While on work related learning learners find more about careers and would work, develop skills and self assess themselves. In most cases learners on work related learning evaluate their suitability to chosen professions. In some cases there can be a fit or mismatch of job requirements and the person’s interests. For example through enlightenment obtained from work related learning Tourism and Hospitality Management students will be able to choose whether to focus on either hospitality part of the programme or tourism part.
According to Matamande N, Nyikahadzoi L, Taderera E and Mandimika E (2013) on their research on the effectiveness of work related learning from a student perspective various discoveries were made. It was found out that students were impressed by being attached as this enhanced their industrial/commercial exposure.
Generally students liked the idea of being exposed to the practical world. However, there were some issues rose which needs to be addressed. It was noted that students have difficulties in securing placement hence might end up grabbing anything that comes their way and can sent most of their time on irrelevant assignments. This therefore calls for universities to seek placement for students so that they become attached to organizations which can help in professional socialization of learners positively. The research also recommended that for work related learning to a success, regular student visits should be done so as to address issues that may arise during the placement tenure and also to assess performance of the learners (Matamande et al, 2013). This therefore will make work related learning contribute a lot to professional socialization of the learner.
In conclusion, it is evident that work related learning contributes a lot to professional socialization of the learner as it gives “hands on” experience, forms professional identity, develops learner career paths and makes students more employable. For work related learning to be an effective tool for professional socialization of the learner educational institutions and the placement organizations must work together and contribute in the socialization process.

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